Elorza heads to Bridgeport to endorse incumbent mayor

Mayor Elorza addresses the City Council. (Photo by WPRI 12/Dan McGowan)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – If anyone knows a thing or two about defeating felonious former mayors, it’s me.

That will be the message Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza delivers Thursday when he makes the 120-mile trek to Bridgeport to endorse incumbent Democrat Bill Finch over Joe Ganim, who served as that city’s mayor for 12 years before a corruption conviction landed him in prison in 2003. Ganim spent seven years in jail.

Elorza, a Democrat who beat back former Mayor Buddy Cianci to become mayor last November, is scheduled to tour the waterfront in Connecticut’s largest city before he endorses Finch outside of a Starbucks at noon.

In a media advisory, Finch’s campaign compared Ganim to Cianci, who led Providence for nearly 22 years between 1975 and 2002, but was twice forced to resign following felony convictions. He served more than four years in prison for after a jury found him guilty of racketeering conspiracy in 2002.

But like Cianci, Ganim is considered a formidable candidate because Bridgeport residents credit him with cleaning up parts of the city that had long been overlooked. He was once considered a contender for governor of Connecticut before he was convicted of awarding city contracts in exchange for money, win, clothes and home improvements, according to the Connecticut Post.

Ganim’s campaign began to take shape in January when he apologized for his wrongdoing while attending church on the city’s east end. He has earned the endorsement of the city’s police union and narrowly lost the endorsement of the Bridgeport Democratic Committee. In a strange twist, Ganim also has the public support of the former FBI agent who helped send him to prison.

Meanwhile, Finch, who was elected Bridgeport’s mayor in 2007, has lined up the support establishment Democrats, including Gov. Dan Malloy and U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy. Unlike Elorza, Finch has yet to receive an endorsement from President Obama.

Finch is known for helping to make vast improvements to Bridgeport’s waterfront and in the city’s downtown. A former state senator, he is also known as an environmental advocate who has helped advance the city’s green economy.

Other than being Democratic mayors from New England, it is unclear how well Finch and Elorza know one another. Finch’s press secretary, Brett Broesder, is a former Rhode Island political operative who ran Peter Kilmartin’s successful campaign for attorney general in 2010.

Bridgeport’s Democratic primary is Sept. 16.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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